Is there anything more classically feminine than a princess?
Royal women have been perceived as the epitome of beauty for centuries, and the invention of photography, the tabloid press, and social media have made them more visible. These women are naturally pretty, but many of them also embrace traditionally feminine traits like kindness and maternity, which make them even more beautiful.
Here are some royal women in recent history who have embraced their femininity, and how they all shatter the narrative that femininity is weak.
The Romanov Sisters: Beauties of the Past
The Grand Duchesses reading at a table. Source
All four of the Romanov sisters (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia) were brutally murdered in 1918, but they left behind thousands of photographs of their daily lives. Though they took the pictures as personal keepsakes, these photos have given the public an intimate look into the lives of the daughters of the last tsar and tsarina of Russia.
While they have plenty of formal photographs, the most beautiful photographs of the Romanov sisters are the candid shots they took with their own cameras, often spending time with family. They aren’t the glamorous shots you’d expect from the daughters of one of the most powerful men in the world; they look like photos that you’d find of your great-grandmother in an old family album.
Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana at the seashore. Source
These photographs are beautiful because they show four young women (they all died in their late teens or early twenties) simply being themselves. It’s easy to see why they were considered to be so beautiful by their contemporaries. Lord Louis Mountbatten of England was a cousin to the Romanov sisters and remembered them fondly (especially Maria, the second-youngest sister whom he loved for the rest of his life). He wrote, "Oh, they were lovely, and terribly sweet, far more beautiful than their photographs show. I was crackers about Maria, and was determined to marry her. She was absolutely lovely. I keep her photograph in my bedroom – always have."
Grand Duchess Maria, 1914. Source
Maria wasn’t the only Romanov sister who left a strong impression on the people she met. One contemporary described Tatiana thus: “Slender with auburn hair and clear gray eyes, she was strikingly good looking and enjoyed the attention her beauty commanded.”
A portrait of Grand Duchess Tatiana. Source
Grand Duchess Tatiana reading a book in Livadia. Source
The Romanov sisters, specifically Olga and Tatiana, were dedicated to philanthropic work. Both girls served as volunteer Red Cross nurses during World War I, and Tatiana ran her own philanthropic committee dedicated to helping wartime refugees. Alongside her nursing work, Olga became a "patron" of a disabled peasant girl, using her personal allowance to pay for the girl’s medical bills. If any of the Romanov sisters had had a chance to grow older, I’m sure they would have become dedicated philanthropists.
Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana serving as nurses during WWI. Source
Though all four Romanov sisters fit the Edwardian standard of beauty with dark hair, pale skin, and rosy cheeks, their look is also timeless by embracing their natural beauty and feminine qualities. Future royals like Princess Diana and Kate Middleton followed in their footsteps with similar approaches to beauty and femininity.
Diana: The People’s Princess
She was both a beauty and a fashion icon, and Princess Diana is still remembered for being the “People’s Princess” due to her charity work and accessibility to the public. Though it’s been nearly a quarter-century since her untimely death, she’s still as loved by the public as she was during her lifetime. Stephen Bates, author of Royalty Inc: Britain’s Best-Known Brand, writes, “People invested a lot of emotional intensity in her, and then were disillusioned by the fact that the royal family hadn’t changed and that it could treat this prize asset in the way that it did. I think the fascination with her continues.”
Like the Romanov sisters, Diana was naturally beautiful, but her inner beauty can be seen in every photo and video taken of her. Though she embraced the fashion trends of her time, she still found a way to make everything look timeless. Her modern take on royal motherhood through sending her sons to school and being involved in their lives made her relatable, and her devotion to charity work showed the world that she was more than just a pretty face.
Diana’s legacy as a philanthropist, fashion icon, and devoted mother still influences women today because she showed them the importance of kindness and emotional strength, two traditionally feminine qualities that we should all embrace. Though she never met her daughter-in-law, Kate Middleton, Kate still finds ways to carry on Diana’s legacy.
Kate Middleton: The Royal Next Door
Like Diana, Kate is a beauty and a fashion icon, but she’s continued Diana’s legacy in other ways too. Since she married Prince William in 2011, they’ve both modernized the royal family for future generations through making their philanthropic platforms visible on social media, making them more accessible and relatable to the public.
When it comes to philanthropic work, Kate proves that she’s also beautiful on the inside by making sure that her work is centered around everyday people. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, she and William used their social media platform to thank healthcare workers and teachers for working overtime. They also launched a pandemic response fund and raised awareness regarding how the pandemic created a mental health crisis. Kate also published Hold Still, a book where she collaborated with the National Portrait Gallery to show photographs of everyday people coping with the pandemic.
Kate wrote, “Through Hold Still, I wanted to use the power of photography to create a lasting record of what we were all experiencing – to capture individuals' stories and document significant moments for families and communities as we lived through the pandemic.”
Kate’s most personal philanthropic endeavor is the Early Years Project, which is dedicated to giving children a strong foundation in their first five years of life to give them tools to become successful adults. In June 2021, she launched The Royal Foundation Centre For Early Childhood. The goals of the program are “promoting and commissioning high-quality research to increase knowledge and share best practice; working with people from across the private, public and voluntary sectors to collaborate on new solutions; and developing creative campaigns to raise awareness and inspire action, driving real, positive change on the early years.”
Much of Kate’s philanthropic work revolves around helping children. She has been open about the ups and downs of motherhood, which shows even with her glamorous lifestyle, she’s a mother before everything else. This makes her come across as sincere and relatable, for the average mother’s life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Though Kate was recently named as "the UK's most influential style icon," she also uses her sense of style to prove that she’s not much different than the average British woman. She wears many affordable brands and has the ability to make her most glamorous outfits look achievable. Many of her looks are a tribute to Princess Diana, including the gold Jenny Packham gown she wore at the No Time To Die premiere in September (Diana wore a silver dress with similar lines to the 1985 premiere for the Bond movie View to a Kill). She’s the epitome of a style that’s both modern and classic, and we love her for it.
Royal Women Prove That Femininity Isn’t Weak
Royal women like the Romanov sisters, Princess Diana, and Kate Middleton are the epitome of femininity and grace. Unfortunately, our culture often believes that traditionally feminine qualities like kindness are weak. We ignore the importance of feminine strength.
The modern feminist movement has convinced us that women need to act like men in the workplace (and the bedroom) to be successful or to make a difference in the world. That's why Princess Diana is still renowned today for her kindness and charitable spirit. Her unique brand of warmth and beauty was the feminine spirit at its best. It has the power to change the world without a single battle being fought.
Royal women are proof that women don’t have to be carbon copies of men to be strong. Though the Romanov sisters died young, they left behind a legacy of being charitable, beautiful, and kind. Princess Diana’s beauty and philanthropic endeavors made her one of the most beloved figures of the 20th century, and Kate Middleton continues her legacy by reinventing what it means to be royal. All of these women embrace traditionally feminine traits, but they’re far from weak.
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